Lawsuit: Church leaders knew pedophiles led Idaho BSA troops
A federal lawsuit alleges the sexual abuse of four Idaho Boy Scouts during the 1970s and 80s could have been prevented.
The attorney who filed the suit against the Boy Scouts of America and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told our station those organizations knowingly kept sexual abuse secret.
Only reporter Caleb James spoke with Boise-based attorney Andrew Chasan, who represents the four plaintiffs who are suing under the pseudonyms "John Doe I-IV."
"The organizations knowingly kept this a secret in order to protect the institution, as opposed to protecting the children," said Chasan, in the exclusive interview.
In the 26-page lawsuit, Chasan and his colleagues paint a picture of a world where four Boy Scouts -- all from different parts of Idaho -- suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their BSA troop leaders. Most Idaho troops are run by the LDS church.
"I think the blame falls on church leaders who had actual knowledge of scout leaders who were pedophiles," said Chasan.
The suit claims church and BSA leaders knew about abuse in Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Couer d'Alene and Lewiston during the 70's and 80's. Chasan said that abuse was at the hands of troop leaders the church knew to be pedophiles.
"By keeping the parents in the dark -- knowingly keeping them in the dark -- they prevented the parents from protecting their own children," he said.
A local representative for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declined an on-camera interview with our station Tuesday, but referred us to a church spokesman in Salt Lake City. Spokesman Eric Hawkins released this statement:
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind, and works diligently to prevent abuse and provide support and assistance to victims of abuse. Anyone who engages in abuse of any kind is rightfully subject to both legal prosecution and to formal church discipline."
Chasan recently won a class action abuse suit against the Catholic Church.
"When you spoke to devote Catholics about the lawsuit, mostly you were encouraged," said Chasan, "They supported their religion, they believed in their religion, but they wanted people to protect the children of the religion."
He hopes LDS church membership will react the same way.
Grand Teton Council scout executive Clarke Farr shared some of his thoughts about the lawsuit by phone on Tuesday afternoon.
"The real story is the kids we're serving today," said Farr. "Anytime a kid gets hurt or abused, it's tragic, and we'll try to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Because it is a federal lawsuit, each plaintiff must seek a minimum of $75,000 in damages.
LDS church spokesman Hawkin's full statement is below:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind, and works diligently to prevent abuse and provide support and assistance to victims of abuse. Leaders at every level are instructed in how to safeguard against abuse and given tools to respond when it does occur. Anyone who engages in abuse of any kind is rightfully subject to both legal prosecution and to formal Church discipline.
It’s difficult to provide information on this particular case, as the plaintiffs are unnamed and the cases are between 28-41 years old, and at least one of the charges does not involve the Church. As a society, we’ve learned a great deal about abuse in the decades since these cases, and made large strides in recognizing and preventing this societal plague.
The Church has also taken important steps to address this issue and has been recognized for its efforts and record of preventing abuse and caring for those who have suffered from abuse. No Church does more to prevent abuse or address it immediately when it does occur. From a 24-hour help line to policies and practices that reduce risk to repeated training for Church leaders, the Church has dedicated significant efforts and resources to preventing and addressing abuse.”
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